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State Denies Request to Overturn 30-Year Ban on Long-Line Fishing

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

The National Marine Fisheries Service asked a state agency to allow longline fishing off the California coast. That method of fishing has been banned by the state. The federal agency wants to test new longline fishing gear as part of an experiment. KPBS Environmental Reporter Ed Joyce has more.

The California Coastal Commission rejected a short-term permit to allow longline fishing for swordfish. Longline fishing uses 60-mile-long lines with thousands of hooks floating near the surface. But more than half of the fish caught aren't swordfish. Karen Steele is with the Sea Turtle Restoration Project.

Steele: So that means for every 10 hooks set, 5-to-7 of these hooks actually catch a marine species that is not targeted by the fishery. So that's a significant amount of marine species that are being caught and killed in regards to you know, capturing a marketable fish.

She says the permit would have allowed use of longlines in critical habitat area for the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle. The National Marine Fisheries Service recommended granting the permit. Rod McInnis is a regional administrator with the fisheries service in Long Beach.  He says the agency disagrees with the decision.

McInnis: They're staff report includes some interpretations of data that we don't see as consistent with what's been demonstrated by the research that National Marine Fisheries Service has done.

He says the agency wanted to find out if updated fishing gear would reduce the injuries to other species. McInnis says the agency hasn't decided yet how to respond to the decision. Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

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